FOR AT LEAST FIFTEEN YEARS, I’ve been publicly arguing that this culture is functionally, inherently, systematically unjust and unsustainable, and that while legislative approaches can slightly mitigate some of the injustices or unsustainability, these approaches will never be anywhere near sufficient. Well, I was wrong. I recently undertook a thought experiment in which I challenged myself to imagine a piece of legislation that would solve the injustices and unsustainability of this culture.
Maybe I should back up a little bit. A central problem of this culture is a near-total lack of accountability on the part of perpetrators of violence on every level, from domestic violence and rape (only 6 percent of rapists spend even one night in jail) to government-sponsored torture and war crimes to massive crimes against the environment. A not-very-funny riddle should make my point. Q: What do you get when you cross two nation states, a large corporation, forty tons of poison, and at least eight thousand dead human beings? A: Retirement with full pay and benefits (Warren Anderson, CEO of Union Carbide). I’m not the only person who has noticed that those who are destroying the planet almost never pay any real costs themselves. What happened to Tony Hayward, CEO of British Petroleum, who among others should be held accountable for the massive Deepwater Horizon oil spill? He was released from his position with a $1.6 million severance payment, as well as an annual pension of about $1 million (he also holds several million shares of BP stock). While some daring souls have boldly asked whether it might be a teensy bit appropriate to, ahem, politely request an inquiry into whether this severance package should be reduced even the tiniest bit, I’ve not seen many public calls (though I’ve heard a lot of private calls) for Hayward’s head to be paraded around New Orleans on a pike.